5 Facts About Polydactyl Cats

Polydactyl cats are adorable and extraordinary creatures. There is a rich history behind the polydactyl cat and its unique charm.

A polydactyl cat is a cat that is born with more toes than the “typical” cat. They can have six or more jelly-bean toes on each of their sweet little paws. Most polydactyl cats have added toes on their front feet and, at times, on their back feet.

The extra toes on the polydactyl cat’s feet can make them look like they are wearing mittens. If you want to find out more information about polydactyl cats, this is the article for you.

polydactyl cats atlanta ga

What Are Polydactyl Cats?

How could you not adore a polydactyl cat? They have a certain remarkable charm to them.

Most cats have five toes on each one of their front paws and four toes on each of their back paws; Polydactyl cats have one or two additional toes on their front paws and sometimes even several extra toes on their back paws. While most cats have eighteen toes, polydactyl cats can have up to seven toes on each paw. Polydactyl is not painful or uncomfortable. It is a genetic abnormality. 

Polydactyly is a genetic mutation in a dominant gene; the typical outcome is extra toes. It is passed down as an autosomal dominant trait, meaning that forty to fifty percent of the litter will most likely be born with extra digits if only one parent is polydactyl. It is infrequent for a feline to have polydactyly on all four paws. Polydactyly is not detrimental to the health of the cat.

The record holders for the cats with the most toes include a ginger cat named Jake, who had an impressive twenty-eight toes, and a cat named Paws, a polydactyl cat who also had twenty-eight adorable little jelly-bean toes. The Guinness Book of World Records acknowledges both cats as having more toes than any other feisty feline.

5 Facts About Polydactyl Cats cats with extra toes or digits on paws

Most polydactyl cats have additional toes on their front paws, and it tends to look like they have thumbs and are wearing mittens. Polydactyl is a genetic abnormality, which means it is an inherited genetic mutation passed down from parents to offspring. There are so many special things to know about polydactyl cats. The following are five facts about polydactyl cats:

Polydactyl Cats Are Known as Hemingway Cats

Ernest Hemingway received an all-white Polydactyl cat named Snow White from a ship captain, which started Hemingway’s lifelong fondness for polydactyl cats. Throughout his lifetime, Hemingway had many cats. Hemingway’s house in Key West, Florida, where the author lived in the 1930s, had over fifty cats. Some reports claimed that he had over seventy cats when he was alive.

Almost half of these cats were polydactyl. Today you can visit Hemingway’s estate, which has been transformed into a museum. At least sixty polydactyl cats have found a home there. Some of them are even directly linked to Snow White. These felines are all fed, brushed, and loved by the museum staff. Hemingway named all his cats after famous individuals, and the tradition remains today.

Some of the cat’s named after famous people include:

  • Billie Holiday
  • Cary Grant
  • “Hairy” Truman
  • Bugsy Siegel
  • Betty Grable
  • Tennessee Williams
  • Winston Churchill
  • Rudolph Valentino

Of course, there is also a cat so aptly named Hemingway. All the cats that live in Hemingway’s house were born there. To control the population, each female can only have one litter. After that, the female is spayed. The father, who is also allowed only one litter, is neutered. Hemingway’s cats have even survived Hurricane Irma.

When Hemingway’s cats pass away, they are laid to rest in the garden at the back of the house. The burial spots are marked with concrete gravestones with the cat’s name, date of birth, and date of passing. The gardens at Hemingway’s estate are sacred for this reason.

Polydactyl was Common in Maine Coons

maine coon polydactyl cat

The Maine Coon breed originated in the snow-laden state of Maine. Polydactyl cats’ large paws and extra toes acted as snowshoes to accommodate them in the treacherous weather. At one time, the breed had over forty percent demonstrating the polydactyl trait. However, the polydactyl feature is no longer prevalent in the Maine Coon breed.

Some fancier clubs acknowledge two specific polydactyl breeds: American polydactyl and Main Coon polydactyl. American polydactyl felines are bred as a specific cat breed. They have physical and behavioral characteristics that make them unique.

Polydactyl Cats Were Deemed Good Luck at Sea

Polydactyl cats were first recorded in 1868. Many years ago, polydactyl cats were considered good luck for ship captains. These cats were said to be outstanding mouse hunters. Ship captains believed that mice harbored disease and the rodents would also damage the ropes and wooden parts of the ship. Rodents would also eat the food carried by the ship’s crew.

Naturally, cats were an excellent choice for rodent control. Polydactyl cats had an advantage over other cats because their extra toes gave them more balance on ships that came across rough waters. The cats were also good companions for the sailors. Cats kept sailors company and comforted them, especially during war.

Polydactyl Cats’ Paws Look Like Mittens or Pancakes

There are three types of polydactyl cats: postaxial, preaxial, and mesoaxial. In postaxial cats, the extra digits are on the exterior side, while the extra digits are on the medial side in preaxial cats. Mesoaxial is where the extra toes are central to the hand or foot. Cats with postaxial and mesoaxial polydactyl have oversized paws that resemble pancakes!

Cats with preaxial polydactyl are referred to as mitten cats or thumb cats. The extra toes give the appearance of the cat having thumbs, and they look like they are wearing an adorable pair of mittens. The “mittens” are not opposable, meaning their “hands” are not like human hands; they still work like paws.

Polydactyl Cat’s Extra Toes Can Benefit Them

cat climbing a tree

You would think a cat with extra toes would feel limited by their abnormality, but not, Cravendale, a polydactyl cat from England. He employed his four extra digits to grab toys and climb obstacles like a human would. He was named after the commercial for Cravendale milk in which gangs of cats with thumbs break into a man’s home.

The extra digits give polydactyl cats a better opportunity to grip treats and help them navigate complex types of surfaces, such as sand or snow. Furthermore, the extra digits can also help with hunting. Just be careful with the polydactyl’s extra toenails, as they should be trimmed regularly to help prevent serious injury.

Conclusion

All cats are adorable and memorable. However, the polydactyl cat is extra special because of their extra toes. There can be various combinations of extra digits, with anything between four to seven toes per paw being common. While all cats are cute and charming, the polydactyl cat has extra jelly-bean toes and considerable charm.

For pet parents in the Atlanta, GA, area, The Village Vets has multiple locations to serve you and your pet. Visit one of our locations today!

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The Village Vets is a network of animal hospitals based in Atlanta, GA and the surrounding area. We offer honest, excellent service to our clients in a comfortable, friendly atmosphere. To learn more about our locations and how we can better serve you and your pet, click the button below.

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About The Village Vets

The Village Vets is a network of animal hospitals based in Atlanta, GA and the surrounding area. We offer honest, excellent service to our clients in a comfortable, friendly atmosphere. To learn more about our locations and how we can better serve you and your pet, click the button below.